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Worksheet with 'disturbing racial offense' created by Duke students in 2010 distributed in Michigan biology class

A Michigan teacher distributed a worksheet on May 11 that compared former President Barack Obama to non-human primates. It “appears the document was created in 2010 by two Duke students” in an evolutionary anthropology independent study course, Duke spokesperson Michael Schoenfeld wrote in an email to The Chronicle. 

The worksheet, titled “Apes, Monkeys, and Lemurs: An Introduction to Primates!” was handed out to about 30 students across two introductory biology classes at the Roeper School, a private school in Birmingham, Mich., according to The Detroit News. 

The first question on the sheet presented seven images and asked, “Which of the following are primates?” Six of the images were photographs of non-human animals, one was of Obama. The answer key included Obama’s image among those deemed to be primates.

The worksheet was originally posted to Duke’s evolutionary anthropology website. 

“We’re looking into how it ended up linked to the evolutionary anthropology site after all this time, but it is not unusual for student projects to be posted to Duke websites,” Schoenfeld, assistant vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote. “In any case, the fact that the document was still there was not known to the department and it was immediately taken down when we were alerted to it on Wednesday night.” 

“To be clear, this document was never used as a lesson plan in a Duke class or by a Duke faculty member, nor was it promoted by Duke as a teaching tool,” he added. 

A statement from the Roeper School described the assignment as containing a “disturbing racial offense...inconsistent with our School’s philosophy and mission.”

The teacher who assigned the worksheet has “taken responsibility and admits the mistake of not properly vetting the resource,” the Roeper School’s statement read. She has been placed on administrative leave.


Adway S. Wadekar | University News Editor

Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume. He has also contributed to the sports section.

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